Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Crime. IV

Lego Abraham and Isaac, via This Is Dan Scott.

So right. Today's the day Big Donald has decided to throw his dim son under the bus.

Just a little over a year after he and Hopey, flying home from Hamburg (and his secret meetings, elaborately conducted under the photographers' noses, with President Putin), concocted the original lie that was meant to keep the boy out of the criminal defendant's box, the Big Man acknowledges that Junior did indeed on 9 June 2016 solicit a profoundly illegal campaign contribution in the form of stolen documents from the foreign government whose intelligence service had stolen them. While insisting, of course, that as far as he's concerned it's not a crime but completely ordinary campaign practice, that the campaign never got anything out of it anyway, and that he himself knew nothing about it in the first place.

All lies, all designed to cover his ample ass while Junior takes the rap for him.

(Jeez, I'm starting to write like Maureen Dowd—I had to restrain myself from mentioning the fact that Hicks joined him yesterday aboard the same plane, on his visit to entertain the faithful in Ohio. Oops, and now it's there.)

It's not going to work, I don't think, any more than the first lie did: It's pretty clear Trump did know about the Veselnitskaya meeting, personally greenlighting it on 7 July in the presence of Michael Cohen, who will testify to that effect if asked; it seems clear to me that something did come of the meeting, in the form of an Art-of-the-Deal agreement that Russians would work to elect Trump and Trump would work to eliminate the Ukraine-related and Magnitsky Act sanctions on the Putin government (though I'm not sure who's going to testify to that); and that was much more illegal than a campaign contribution on its own would have been, that quid-pro-quo agreement making it bribery.

The sequence of events around the G-20 summit in Hamburg is starting to clarify itself for me into a somewhat farcical story:
  • Friday morning 7 July, Trump has his scheduled private "poolside" meeting with Putin, going on for two hours instead of the expected half-hour, and in the evening, hanging out after the group dinner the unexpected session with Putin and a single, Russian, translator
  • 8 July, The New York Times publishes the first account of Donald Junior's meeting with Natalya Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016; after a series of more diplomatic meetings, Trump flies home, dictating a statement for Junior to release explaining, "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago," which the Times adds to their story
  • 9 July, The New York Times publishes a story claiming that Junior went to the meeting in the hope of obtaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton; Junior issues a new statement, acknowledging that he had been drawn into the meeting with a promise of damaging information on Hillary Clinton but there wasn't any, just some talk about the adoption of Russian children—and the Magnitsky Act—which he thought was stupid and useless;
  • 10 July, The New York Times publishes a claim that Junior was told "that the compromising information about Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign"; Junior's attorney released a statement saying that this was much ado about nothing;
  • 11 July, Veselnitskaya went on the Today Show to say that she was not connected to the Russian government, and Junior tweeted the whole email chain in which Rob Goldstone invited him to get some information as part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign, in advance of The Times publishing it a couple of minutes later.
It seems obvious that Junior put out his emails only because The Times let him know they were about to publish them. And by the same token, the excessive time Trump spent with Putin on 7 July must be connected to his hearing from The Times that they were running a story on the Veselnitskaya meeting and inviting him to comment, possibly before the first meeting. Thus the secret meeting at the dinner was devoted to cooking up the story that Junior would be given to release, as Emptywheel has said on the basis of her own logic.

That's one of the farcical bits: you can imagine Putin coaching Trump in his story (probably involving Veselnitskaya and the meeting's whole complex cover story, with the allegation that Clinton was taking tainted money associated with Bill Browder, and the Magnitsky sanctions, which had led Putin to cancel the adoption program), Trump having difficulty grasping it, Putin getting more and more exasperated with his dyspeptic face, and Trump getting red and looking for somebody to yell at. But when Trump was finally safely on the plane with Hicks and the others he couldn't remember the story adequately.

Or maybe he was unwilling to mention the Magnitsky sanctions (knowing what had happened to Flynn, in particular, when he was caught talking to Russians about sanctions). Either way, he came out with this absurd and obviously inadequate account instead. He rushed in to take over the management of the crisis, and made the situation worse. And then Junior proceeded to make it worse yet, on a daily basis, as The Times played its cards one at a time.

What's pathetic is way the one fact somehow got lost to the media in this ridiculous sequence, that Goldstone really did offer, and Junior accepted, Russia's proposal to put Trump in power:
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.
And since we now know (from the Internet Research Agency and GRU indictments and the oft-repeated statements of the US Intelligence Community) what some of us suspected two years ago, that there indeed was an active program of the Russian government's support for Mr. Trump, this phrasing just keeps getting more and more meaningful, and the story that the Trump Tower meeting was just crazy Natalya spinning her story of the Ziff Brothers less and less likely. This meeting was about something real. 

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